Statelessness affects millions of people. A stateless child is born every 10 minutes. The Statelessness Hallmark Research Initiative was created to address a gap in information on stateless populations. This research has been identified by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) as necessary to end statelessness.


Until recently, there have been significant gaps in qualitative and quantitative information on stateless populations and in analyses of the causes of statelessness. In 2017 the Statelessness Hallmark Research Initiative was established to address this with funding from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research for three years.

This Initiative created opportunities for University of Melbourne researchers and external partners to engage in academic collaboration and interdisciplinary research on statelessness and citizenship. It built capacity and understanding of statelessness amongst academic and research communities in the Asia-Pacific region. An active statelessness research community is now focused through the University’s Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness.

The challenge

Stateless people are not recognised as citizens of any country. As a result, they often struggle with aspects of their lives that citizens take for granted. In some cases, stateless persons face protracted periods in detention or more extreme forms of persecution.

Historically, the phenomenon of statelessness was overlooked by the international community. However, the identification, recognition and legal protection of stateless persons has undergone a renaissance in the past decade, chiefly led by the work of the UNHCR.


Interdisciplinary Seminar series: In collaboration with the Melbourne Social Equity Institute, the SHRI ran the interdisciplinary Migration, Refugees and Statelessness Seminar Series. The series hosted eight seminars annually with presenters including researchers, visiting scholars, human rights advocates, legal professionals, writers and those with lived experience.

The Visiting Fellowship Scheme encouraged international research collaborations, providing an opportunity for statelessness scholars across the globe to engage with the University of Melbourne. Visiting Fellows spent time working alongside the Peter McMullin Centre on Statelessness team, contributing to the Migration, Refugees and Statelessness Seminar Series and in some cases, beginning an ongoing affiliation with the Centre.

Funded Projects

Legal identity under rebel governance
UoM: CI Bart Klem (Arts); Marika Sosnowski (Arts); External: Katharine Fortin (Utrecht University)

Building institutional capacity for regional migration governance after the Andaman Sea crisis: Collective problems and competing norms
UoM: CI Adrian Little (Arts); Terry Macdonald (Arts);
External: Centre for Policy Development (CPD); Matthew Gibney (Oxford)

Voices of Statelessness: Laying the foundations and principles for a digital archive of testimonies about statelessness in Australia
UoM: CI Timnah Baker (Law)
External: Michael Green & Andre Dao (Behind the Wire)

Performing Statelessness
UoM: CI Danny Butt (Fine Arts); Ruth DeSouza (Fine Arts)
External: Tania Canas (RISE Refugees); Genevieve Grieves (Museums Victoria)

Children of ‘Cross Border Marriages’ and Nationality in Can Tho, Mekong Delta, Vietnam: Degrees of Statelessness
UoM: CI Lan Anh Hoang (Arts); Susan Kneebone (Law); Brandais York (Law); Sayomi Ariyawansa (Law); External: Ho Chi Minh Law University, Vietnam

Citizenship in hybrid societies and its relevance for Australian law
Jayani Nadarajalingam (Melbourne School of Government), with Cheryl Saunders (Melbourne Law School), Anne Carter (Deakin Law School) and Patrick Emerton (Monash Law School)

Preventing statelessness in India: exclusion and access in Assam’s National Register of Citizens appeals process
Jeff Redding (Melbourne Law School and Australia India Institute), with Mohsin Alam Bhat (Jindal Global University)

Contested belonging: the documentation and creation of legal identity by non-state actors in civil war
Sara Meger (School of Social and Political Sciences), with Marika Sosnowski (School of Social and Political Sciences), Bart Klem (University of Gothenburg) and Katharine Fortin (Utrecht University)

Stateless children of migrants in Lebanon
Bina Fernandez (School of Social and Political Sciences, with Karen Block (Melbourne School of Population and Global Health), Yara Mourad and Aseel Jammal (Issam Fares Institute, American University of Beirut), and Roula Hamati (Insan Association)

Blending traditional and contemporary approaches to conflict resolution: a case study of Naga community cross-border dialogue
Anne Decobert (School of Social and Political Sciences), with Michael Breen (School of Social and Political Sciences), Dolly Kikon (School of Social and Political Sciences) and Joseph Lo Bianco (Melbourne Graduate School of Education)

A place to call home (phase 2): examining the numbers, location and lived experience of stateless refugee children in Australia
Katie Robertson and John Tobin (Melbourne Law School), with Sarah Dale (Refugee Advice and Casework Service)

First published on 27 April 2022.

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